Jan Fiore 2017-09-02 02:43:45
Celebrating America’s Animation Pioneer Mickey & Minnie display dolls, Charlotte Clark, c.1930 Few people in history have ever been blessed with the vision that Walt Disney had, and fewer still had the strength of character and willpower to follow that vision through. Disney’s innate business sense and artistic insight have made him a household name throughout the world. As a teenager, Disney worked as an advertising cartoonist, developing his first animated films. Over the next 10 years, he created increasingly complex characters and cartoons until a failed business deal with Universal Pictures forced him back to the drawing board. Working with his long-time colleague, Ub Iwerks, Disney immediately developed Mickey Mouse, the true beginning of the Disney entertainment empire. A notoriously demanding boss, Disney drove the legendary creative explosion at the Disney studio during the 1930s, which transformed and redefined the art of animation. As a result, the vast majority of collectors focus their interests on items from 1928-1939, demonstrating the enduring appeal of vintage. The variety of Disney collectibles is staggering. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are made from a diversity of materials. They range from small pin-back buttons to giant display dolls reaching 48” tall. While the majority of items are of United States origin, Disney, for decades, has been a worldwide marketer and items for sale include items intended for distribution in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, Germany, and Great Britain among others. The majority of collectibles is broadly defined as toys, but there are also animation cels, original art, posters, comics, store displays, and much more. Ted Hake is the founder of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles, now part of Diamond International Galleries, and is widely recognized as an expert on Disneyana. “Perhaps the best known display dolls were made by Charlotte Clark, c.1930,” said Hake. “Clark began designing the dolls and then showed them to Disney, who was delighted.” Mickey is 44” to the tips of his ears; Minnie is 48” to the top of her flower. Both dolls are made of stuffed velveteen and have a 32” tail. Hake Americana sold them for a record price of $151,534 in 2007. TOYS The value of Disney toys has three primary determining factors: rarity, demand, and condition. Of these, condition is paramount. “If a very rare, very desirable item has a significant condition problem, a large part of the potential buyer universe ceases to exist,” said Hake. Few vintage items are truly Mint, so the highest grade listed by Hake’s Americana is Near Mint. Even so, the percentage of items still surviving in Near Mint condition is likely to be very small. This low supply, coupled with collector demand for outstanding condition accounts for the disproportionately high values assigned to Near Mint condition versus those in Fine or Good. A memorable example is a Lionel Mickey Mouse train set from 1935, which was in fabulous condition because it had been stored in a cedar chest for 80 years, and was featured on a Katie Couric show in late 2013. When the train set came up for auction the following year, Heritage Auctions sold it for just under $10,000. Another is a beautiful Alice in Wonderland “Mad Hatter” figural teapot that came up for auction at Hake’s Americana in 2015. The teapot’s prototype design featured a more classical teapot shape as opposed to the finished piece’s figural design. Most likely a unique piece, the Disney item was ver y popular with “Alice in Wonderland” collectors, selling for $15,306.50. Fortunately for collectors, not all items fetch top prices. “The appeal of Disney collectibles spans all generations, and wonderful items are available from all time periods and in all price ranges,” said Hake. An unusual bisque toothbrush holder made in the 1930s and featuring two Donald Ducks joined arm-inarm, sold at Hake’s Americana in 2015 for $139.15. More recently, Hake’s sold a pair of Davy Crockett movie posters for two live-action Disney films starring Fess Parker in the title role for Davy Crockett, King Of The Wild Frontier (1955) and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956), released in a double-billing with Walt Disney’s Man In Space feature. The posters sold in 2016 for $172.50. ANIMATION ART One of the most popular collectibles is the production cel; a screen-used piece of animation art. A production drawing from Walt Disney, such as Mickey Mouse climbing up the side of a mountain from 1936 can sell for under $200, while a production cel depicting a full body image of Mickey in cowboy gear, from Two-Gun Mickey, c. 1934, sold at Hake’s Americana for $13,800 in 2015. Demonstrating the value of rarity, a cel from Mickey’s Service Station, c.1935, and believed to be the only black and white production cel featuring Goofy in private hands, sold in 2014 for just under $100,000 at Heritage Auctions. There are several unique factors that drive value in animation art: popularity of the character – Mickey is just more popular than Donald Duck; the pose – is it very famous and instantly recognizable? And scarcity – there are a lot of production drawings on the market, but there are limited number of black and white cels in the world. DISNEY COLLECTIBLES This category includes movie posters distributed to theatres to promote Disney films. Before the 1960s, the word “collectibles” didn’t exist, and a lot of early toys and posters were trashed or lost to scrap drives during WWII. This accounts for the scarcity of movie posters that exist and for the few that survived, they command top prices. Store Displays are also a very popular item, and all Walt Disney Old King Cole Inc. displays are among the best and most sought after Disneyana of any era. Recent favorites include a set of eight painted composition displays and two painted cottage fiberboard displays, c.1938, by Old King Cole, and is the only complete set known to exist. Snow White measures 13.5” x 39 5/8” tall, while each dwarf stands approx. 20.5” x 24” tall. The set sold for $18,075.82 at Hake’s Americana in 2015. Also in 2015, a rare and desirable pair of Old King Cole mechanical Mickey & Minnie displays sold for $29,221.50. Motors and electric cords had been professionally replaced with modern devices, allowing Mickey’s outstretched hand to move up and down. Minnie holds a mirror in her outstretched arm, and her other arm is a separate piece that also moves up and down. At the time of the sale, they were described as among the most striking Mickey and Minnie Mouse displays they had offered in their 48 years in business. Alex Winter took over as President of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles in 2014. “Disneyana continues to be very strong. There are always ups and downs to certain types of items and characters, but across the board, vintage Disney still does well. If high grade or a rarity, prices are as solid as ever,” said Winter. “This has to do with Disney characters remaining relevant even after all these years.” With an estimated 52 million visitors a year to Walt Disney World, chances are that’s not going to change anytime soon. All photographs courtesy of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles unless otherwise noted. Mechanical Mickey store display, manufactured by Old King Cole, c.1935
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